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The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World

by Leap on January 10, 2024 2 Orlando

If you live in the western parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico, chances are Disneyland Resort is your main Disney Parks destination in the U.S. Our Disneyland fan's guide to visiting Disney World will toadally help you transition to the very different Disney World Resort.

If you live locally or have had a Disneyland annual pass or Magic Key, you're probably a fellow theme park expert who uses all of the tips and tricks we frogs recommend to skip the lines and avoid the crowds. However, if you are planning your first trip to Walt Disney World Resort (or it’s your first trip in a really long time), you definitely need to do your research because there are some major differences in planning a vacation at the two resorts. (That’s why you are reading this blog, right?!) Disney World is HUGE compared to Disneyland, and if you do not plan ahead you may miss out on rides, dining and character experiences. Never fear, Disneyland fans, we've put together the key things you need to know before you visit Disney World!

Hop along with us as your Disney World tour guides! It's important to note that this post focuses on how things are in 2024, now that changes have taken place at Disney World. Hop over to this post to learn about six updates and changes for 2024 Walt Disney World trips, the biggest being no reservations needed for date-based tickets, and all-day park hopping has returned! Like Disneyland, Disney World dining reservations are made 60 days in advance.

What this means is that there is less advance planning to worry about that in the past, and you can approach a Disney World theme park in a similar way to a daily trip to Disneyland when it comes to rides and dining. Less advance planning is necessary than in the past, but there is still a lot you need to know. Both parks ended free FASTPASS and now have an optional paid service called Genie+ and the ability to purchase individual Lighting Lane access for a few select rides. But even these services work a little differently there. Disney World still has rides with virtual queues.

Disney World is a much larger destination with transportation to think about and more hotel choices. So let's hop to it and go over what you need to know before heading to Disney World when coming from a Disneyland perspective.

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World — Planning

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - EPCOT

OMG! You're going to Disney World! This is so exciting! In order to achieve that hoppy family vacation you've always dreamed about, take a little time to get familiar with Disney World well before your trip. Overall, you are going to need to start planning your trip to Disney World a little earlier than you would a trip to Disneyland. (Although we are seeing more and more guests booking last-minute trips lately!) Disney World is a very popular vacation destination! Definitely hop over to our Disney World crowd calendar to try to choose one of the least crowded times to visit.

While it’s always smart to plan your trips to Disneyland and learn as much as you can about skipping the lines, virtual queues, and new rides and shows (BTW, we have Disney World Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disneyland for folks used to the East Coast parks), if you’ve been to Disneyland a few times, you know you can just show up and wing it and have a great time. This is not necessarily the case with Disney World. You have to do a little more prep work to gain maximum fun!

Whether you are new to Disney World or a seasoned visitor, you need to plan your visit in advance and plan for rides, shows and meals. There are some recent changes right now that actually make planning a Disney World vacation much easier. There are some more logistics to plan and things to learn, including new lingo. Park hopping means hopping into some kind of vehicle or transportation to get to another park (rather than the quick walk across the esplanade at Disneyland). Speaking of park hopping, guests at Disney World can hop all day long now!

In the past you would have planned meals at popular restaurants at least six months in advance, but for now, the booking window is 60 days! (Same as Disneyland.) If you do not put in the time to plan, you just might miss out. But never give up hope in checking for reservations because you might be able to pick up some else's cancellation, especially a day or two before you visit when people start to cancel. Do some research and you’ll be in good shape to make hoppy family memories.

One bonus of the Walt Disney World Resort property is experiencing the recreational fun you can have outside of the theme parks. You can rent boats and go kayaking or fishing. Disney World has several golf courses and mini golf courses. You can even go horseback riding and take archery lessons! Many hotel guests build in some time to relax and enjoy their resort during their vacation too ... and each of the resort hotels has a toadally unique theme, which extends to its decor, pool and dining options. You might want to venture off the property to take an airboat tour and maybe even spot some alligators or take about an hour's drive to go to the beach for some relaxation. We have a hopful post on things to do in Orlando outside the theme parks.

Budgeting Your Time

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - Villains After Hours

Plan to allow extra time to get to the parks, hop between parks and wait in lines. Food lines and ride lines are generally longer at Disney World. But the good news is that Mobile Order is an option for some quick-service restaurants at Disney World too! Also, it's important to check the park hours. While we generally enjoy those late night hours at Disneyland until midnight, sometimes the parks close earlier at Disney World. Seasonal events, including Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and Disney After Hours events may lead to early park closures for non-party guests. You can check park hours and see special events on our Orlando crowd calendar. Knowing the park closure time helps in planning your day, whether you decide you'd like to attend a special event or would rather hop to another park to make the most of your time.

Don't froget to check and see about any festivals going on during your visit — EPCOT's festivals can really enhance your EPCOT time, and generally include limited-edition food, concerts, art and more.

Depending on the length of your vacation, you may opt to stick to one park per day at Disney World. Explore everything that park has to offer and move onto another park the next day. Park hopping requires taking transportation to another park, and that can waste valuable time if you're limited during your visit.

Prepare to Walk and Experience Weather

Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort (if that’s also on your must-see list) are much larger properties than their West Coast counterparts. Even the ride exits are much longer than the Disneyland versions. The same rides may have larger footprints too! You’ll notice the castle is bigger and the hub and lands have more space to them. That also means you’ll be getting your steps in, so wear good walking shoes.

The climate will also differ from what you are used to at Disneyland. Check the weather forecast so you’ll know what to pack, but in warmer months, be prepared for heat, humidity and rain. You may not need that sweater on warm nights at Disney World, whereas the temperatures drop at Disneyland as soon as the sun goes down. Rain may be a rare event at Disneyland, especially in summer. However, thunderstorms tend to be an everyday event in the summer in Orlando, but the storms move in and out very quickly and are usually in the late afternoon. Bring that umbrella and poncho, and check both the forecast and the radar to stay ahead of the rain. Did you know a company makes PonchEars? The hood allows room for your ear headbands!

Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane at Disney World

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World-Disney Genie at Disney WorldThe FASTPASS systems at Disney World and Disneyland have both been retired. A new optional paid version that is similar to MaxPass launched at both locations. It's called Genie+. Even if you have used Genie+ at Disneyland, there are some major differences we will go over. Like at Disneyland, Disney World guests can select rides to use the Lightning Lane through Genie+ on the day of their visit. However, Disney World guests can get an earlier start by selecting rides before they enter the park at Disney World (at 7 a.m.) All guests can start making their Genie+ selections beginning at 7 a.m. from their home, car, restaurant or hotel room. That also means that Lightning Lane reservations fill up for popular rides faster than they do at Disneyland.

You can book your next reservation after two hours, but in the morning that's two hours after park opening. So if you book at 7 a.m. and the park opens at 9 a.m. you may not be able to book a second Lightning Lane until 11 a.m., unless you redeemed the first one already. It's a lot to remember, so be sure to set alarms. Some changes may be coming in 2024, so be on the lookout for Genie+ news.

For individual Lighting Lane rides that you pay a la carte for, Disney World hotel guests have an advantage. Hotel guests can book those at 7 a.m. Other guests can start reserving when the park opens, but they do not have to be physically in the park. You'll want to note park opening times so you can get a jump on making selections.

Disney World has more options on Genie+, so you'll see rides such as Dumbo, Pirates and Jungle Cruise on Genie+ there. What's not included are PhotoPass photographer photos. You'll have to buy those separately.

The Genie+ Lightning Lane selections occur as first available time slots, like at Disneyland. However, you can select a time to ride an individual Lightning Lane at Disney World.

You probably have a lot of questions. we probably have the answers. Hop over to our Disney World posts on Disney Genie and our Disney Genie FAQ as well as Our Top Tips and Strategies fro Using Genie+ at Disney World to learn all about Disney Genie, Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane selections at Disney World. Disney Genie, not to be confused with Genie+, is a new free planning tool in the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps. It helps you plan your day in real time and offers suggestions for a shorter wait for a ride. You might not need it at your familiar parks, but it could be helpful when you're in a whole new world.

Virtual Queues

At times, Disney World may utilize virtual queues for popular and new attractions. Hop over to our guide to navigating virtual queues at Walt Disney World to find out if any virtual queues are in effect for your visit and how to join them.

Getting to Know the Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - Animal Kingdom Safari

Disneyland Resort sits on about 500 acres and has two parks that are literally steps away from one another. Downtown Disney is next to the parks, connecting them to the three on-site hotels, all within hopping distance. In comparison, Walt Disney World Resort covers about 30,000 acres, has four theme parks and two water parks and there is a great distance between them all! It really is a whole new world!

Disney Springs is the Disney World equivalent to Downtown Disney, but it is not attached to the theme parks. It’s a shopping and dining destination in itself. Disney Springs is much bigger than Downtown Disney, with four distinct "neighborhoods" to explore. Disney Springs is also home to the world's largest World of Disney store.

If you're staying at one of the EPCOT area hotels, you're steps away from Disney's BoardWalk, which offers even more entertainment, dining and shopping options.

The Walt Disney World Resort property is sprawled out and you cannot generally walk from park to park. Each park is unique and offers a different experience. Don’t ask us our favorite park. We love different parts of each park and have favorite rides at each one! They are all special in their own way!

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World-Castle ReflectionHere are the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks and water parks:

  • Magic Kingdom This park is most like Disneyland Park but on a bigger scale. This park has many of the same Disneyland classic rides. However, you may find them in slightly different places and with subtle differences you fans might notice. You may be used to the approachable and quaint Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. It’s almost overwhelming to see the towering Cinderella Castle in person. Don’t miss the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, PeopleMover (it is greatly missed at Disneyland), Country Bear Jamboree (also missed by many Disneyland fans but is undergoing changes in 2024 at Disney World) and the Hall of Presidents, as none of these can be found at Disneyland. Then there is is the new Tron Lightcyle/Run, which is unlike anything at Disneyland. It has a virtual queue and and individual Lightning Lane but no standby line. Catch a show in front of the castle! That's something you don't get to experience at Disneyland.
  • EPCOT - It is home to World Showcase and rides such as Test Track, Soarin’ (with a different ending), Spaceship Earth and Frozen Ever After. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind are the newest rides! Do not miss Guardians! It's so fun!
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios - Home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (almost identical to Disneyland’s version), Toy Story Land (home to Slinky Dog Dash), Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (we miss this one from Disney California Adventure, and the Orlando version has a surprising twist!) and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
  • The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - Tree of Life Animal KingdomDisney’s Animal Kingdom - Home to Pandora and the highly popular Avatar Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Check out the bioluminescence of Pandora at night and the lighting and projections on the Tree of Life. You get a zoo and theme park in one at Disney's Animal Kingdom!
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park - A snow-covered water park (seriously!), where you can take a "ski" lift to the top of the park's focal point, Mount Gushmore, for even more thrilling water attractions.
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park  - A tropical lagoon (don't mind the odd shipwreck or debris left over from the typhoon that rolled through) that's home to the Crush 'n' Gusher tube slide, as well as lazy rivers and other water attractions. In the summer, Typhoon Lagoon also hosts H2O Glow Nights, an after-hours party featuring Toy Story pals and exclusive food and drink options.

If you want to take a closer look at what attractions are unique to each park and others that may be similar to Disneyland Resort attractions, hop over to our post on Disney World versus Disneyland. No, it's not a contest. Both resorts are special in our hearts. We find it helps to call out any unique attractions so guests do not miss out on what makes each park special.

Walt Disney World Resort Ticket Options

One difference between Disneyland and Disney World are the ticketing options. You may be familiar with Base tickets, which allow you to visit one park a day, or Park Hopper tickets, which allow you to visit more than one park each day (at any time without time limitations). You can no longer purchase tickets preloaded Genie+, but you can purchase in the app beginning at 12 a.m. for the day you wish to use the service.

Walt Disney World Resort offers Park Hopper Plus tickets, which allow you to hop to the parks AND the water parks (plus some other extras, including ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, two mini-golf locations and Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course). Take a look at all of the ticket options available to you to see which best meets your family's needs and interests.

One thing that can throw Disneyland fans for a loop at Disney World is that you need a physical ticket or MagicBand at Disney World. At Disneyland your tickets are in the app, and you can scan your phone at lightning lanes. Or you scan a code to redeem a virtual queue. At Disney World you need that band, plastic ticket card. Alternatively, you can add your park tickets to your Apple wallet. Your app is not enough. So don't leave your ticket or MagicBand in the room!

Walt Disney World Resort Transportation Options

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - Monorail

There are a lot of free transportation options for getting around Disney World. The choices vary based on where you are and are trying to go. Reach for the sky with the new Disney Skyliner Transporation System. It looks like a ski resort gondola, but with adorable Disney characters from both movies and attractions decorating the cabins. The Skyliner connects hotels such as Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.

The monorail lines access the Transportation and Ticket Center, EPCOT, Magic Kingdom and hotels such as the Polynesian, Contemporary and Grand Floridian Resorts.

By water, you can take ferries or water taxis to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs and certain hotels, including Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.

Disney Skyliner, monorail, ferries, water taxis and buses are all toadally free to take around property. Here's the scoop on complimentary transportation available at each theme park:

Ground transportation choices include buses, which are available at every theme park and resort hotel. If want to get to your destination faster, you can always use Lyft or Uber. You can order Minnie Van service connected by Lyft to get a Minnie-themed ride for up to six passengers. All ride share options are a separate, paid option. The Minnie Vans are actually owned and operated by Disney World. That means you'll have a cast member to chauffeur you. No matter which Disney transportation mode you use, tadpoles can snag a free, collectible transportation card. See if you can collect them all! Ask a cast member for one, and remember that each type of boat has its own card ;)

If you drive to the theme parks with your own car or a rental, it will cost a cost you a daily fee per day for parking. You do not have to pay again if you park hop and drive to a different theme park on that same day. Disney hotel guests do not need to pay to park at theme parks (or at the hotels!). Just remember to budget time to park, get to the park and go through security again when park hopping. Theme park parking lot row numbers are at the end of the row instead of on signs.

Are you staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel? If you aren’t doing much exploring outside the resort area, you do not need to rent a car. Hop over to our post on Orlando transportation to get the full scoop on your options for getting around Orlando. From Orlando International Airport (MCO), you can hop on a paid shuttle (such as the Sunshine Flyer motor coach service or Mears Connect) to and from the hotels! Going carless to Disney World can be a great way to save money. Rent for the day if you want to explore other areas, or take a Lyft or Uber to other destinations.

MagicBands and My Disney Experience

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - MagicBands

One of the biggest changes for a Disneyland fan visiting Disney World is the use of MagicBands and My Disney Experience! MagicBands have more functionality at Disney World than at Disneyland. MagicBands are rubber bracelets with RFID technology. Many of the uses of a MagicBand are also available on your mobile phone at Disney World.

Among MagicBands' many uses are scanning in at the Lightning Lane entrance (so much faster than pulling out the phone). Scanning in is much easier at Disney World. MagicBands are not necessary (you can scan a park ticket instead), but they do make life much easier.

MagicBands are so much more than ride reservation keepers though. The bands are your ticket to enter the park. If you are staying at a Disney property, they can be used as a room key. You can set them up with a credit card to use in place of money in the parks and on the hotel properties. You scan it to collect your on-ride photos or PhotoPass and character photos. (That is so much easier than typing in a PhotoPass attraction number.) Sometimes the images automatically appear in your app!

MagicBands can be used to simplify your day and keep you from going into your wallets and pockets. You can purchase them on your own in advance. But if you stay on-site, they do make life easier. When you link a MagicBand at Disney World, it is tied to you forever. You cannot reassign a band like at Disneyland. So assign wisely! You can use your Disneyland MagicBand at Disney World, though, and vice-versa.

Guests are able to use the My Disney Experience app to do the things they have been doing with MagicBands. If you want the ease of being hands free, MagicBands are still an option.

Much like the Disneyland app, My Disney Experience is a Disney World guest's one-stop-shop. It's where you'll make your Disney Park Pass reservations, dining reservations and view restaurant menus. This is where you'll check-in for dining reservations, and where you can check for walk-up availability. It's where you'll mobile order, and where you can view park hours and park hopping availability. You can even see a map and directions, or filter for things like Guest Relations, PhotoPass stops, restrooms and more. My Disney Experience is also where you'll view or link to your photos and use the new Genie planning feature. Download the latest version before you hit the parks!

How to Choose a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

Disneyland Fan's Guide to Visiting Disney World - Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort

Now that you know a little bit about MagicBands and the advantages of staying on Disney World property, that may help you decide whether to stay on property or elsewhere. Disney World is about a 20-minute ride from Universal Orlando Resort and other Orlando hotels if you decide to stay off property.

Advantages to staying at a Disney World hotel include:

  • Early Theme Park Entry (Hotel guests can enter ANY theme park up to 30 minutes early EVERY day.)
  • Advance Dining Reservations 60 days in advance of your check-in day, for the entire length of your stay for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests
  • Being able to make individual Lightning Lane selections at 7 a.m.
  • Free hotel parking and theme park parking.
  • Can add a dining plan.

Contemporary Resort - Incredibles Themed Room

Some deciding factors when choosing a hotel include budget (Psst ... get a hoppin' deal on Disney World or Orlando hotels through your favorite froggy friends at Undercover Tourist), types of transportation available or distance from your favorite parks. The type of pool and if there is a waterslide or a cool theme (Princesses? "Cars?" Tropical hideaway?) might also be factors to help you to pick the best Disney World hotel for your family. We were toadally excited to see the Incredibles-themed rooms at the Contemporary.

Planning Meals with Advance Dining Reservations

Dining reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance. At Disneyland, you may have gotten used to making dining reservations up to 60 days away for those harder-to-get reservations. At Disney World, you'll want to be ready to book 60 days before your trip begins, especially for character dining experiences such as Cinderella's Royal Table. (You could reserve up to 180 days in advance of your visit pre-pandemic but currently it's 60 days).

Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests have an advantage because they can book the entire length of their stay, up to 10 days. All dining reservations can be made using the My Disney Experience app. Check Open Table for additional Disney Springs reservations. If you do miss out on securing a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations as your visit approaches. The day before is still a good time to check because people may make a last-minute decision to cancel the reservation. If you did not score a reservation, see if the dining location offers walk-up availability in the My Disney Experience app.

Dining plans are back for on-site hotel guests. You can add this onto your stay. Find out more about Dining Plans.

Meeting Characters at Disney World

The Disneyland Fan’s Guide to Visiting Disney World - Meet Characters

At Disneyland, you might generally know where to find characters during normal operations. Sometimes characters wander freely or pop up near the park entrance. A princess might be in Fantasyland or the Royal Hall or out by the park entrance. You hop in line to get one-on-one time.

You will not find as many freely wandering characters at Disney World. At Disney World, most characters are normally a bit more hidden away or in consistent locations with formal lines. Some meet and greets are available on Genie+; you can locate them on the Tip Board or map, with their associated wait times. Depending on your priorities for the day, using Genie+ to meet a character may be worth it. Look for other opportunities to see characters such as distanced sightings and character cavalcades or a parade.

Disney World Photos

With all of those magical moments to come, let’s talk about photos. If you want to those PhotoPass on-ride photos and videos — yes, they have videos! — the process and pricing is different from Disneyland’s photo packages. Disneyland has PhotoPass photographer and attraction photos included with Genie+. Disney World only includes attraction photos. Both coasts have augmented reality filters. You can purchase all of the photos for the day for a fee. Expect the Disney World fee to be more than you will pay at Disneyland. During our spring visit to Disney World, the price was $69.99. For longer stays, you can get all your vacation photos from the trip for $199.99 through Memory Maker. If you purchase up to three days in advance of your trip, you can save $30, making your total cost $169 for Memory Maker.

To collect photos throughout the day, scan your MagicBand or ticket under your ride photo (that certainly beats typing the attraction number into the app!) or from the PhotoPass photographer when getting a PhotoPass photo.

Are you excited to make your first trip to Disney World? Hopefully you've found our Disneyland fan’s guide to visiting Disney World hopful in planning and making your aware of the differences so you can have a magical trip! Remember that your froggy friends can help you save money with discount  Disney World Resort tickets and hotels stays in Orlando and at Disney World.

Related: Disney World Versus Disneyland — How to Choose Your Disney Destination

Related: Reasons to Stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Apr 27, 2020 at 7:24 p.m. Catherine Says...

The Magic Bands do have RFID Technology and NO batteries. We live here in Central Florida (moved out here from Anaheim CA where there “wasn’t enough Disney!) ????

We have Magic Bands that are 5 years old that still work.

Apr 27, 2020 at 3:19 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Catherine!

Yay - how fun that they are still working! We have some pretty old ones too, but always bring a spare just in case, since the MagicBands utilize RFID technology but also have a teeny tiny battery in them that gives out eventually (Disney Parks Moms Panel provided some suggestions on how to swap things out when that happens). Fingers crossed that you continue to get lots of use out of your Bands! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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